Action on Sectarianism


YouthLink Scotland, the National Agency for Youth Work has set up the first independent public website designed to challenge sectarianism in Scotland, supported by the Scottish Government. We will use the resources in PSYV to learn more about sectarianism and how to combat it. Group Coordinators and Adult volunteers can link here to find out more. You can also watch these introductory videos.


On completion PSYV's will:

  • Understand what we mean by sectarianim (beyond stereotypes of the problem)

  • Explore the damaging effects of sectarianism

  • Identify ways to take action on sectarianism


Group room or classroom


4 to 8 x 30 minute blocks.


You will need access to the Action on Sectarianism website.

Here is a guide from Debating Matters (activity 4)

Activity 1: What is Sectarianism

To get started have a quick fire word smash to see how many words group members can come up with to describe sectarianism. One way to do this is to have flip-chart or board. Give out post-it notes (different shaped notes or different colours always work well). Clear some space on the floor or round a table where group members write their answers. Then start the clock and see how many they post. Another option is to have a bin, hat, a ring or hoop that they throw answers into. Someone then reads out the answers and groups common answers together. As you do this discuss the answers with the group.

Now share the official definition. Does the group agree or disagree?

The Advisory Group on Tackling Sectarianism in Scotland defined it as;

Sectarianism in Scotland is a complex of perceptions, attitudes, beliefs, actions and structures, at personal and communal levels, which originate in religious difference and can involve a negative mixing of religion with politics, sporting allegiance and national identifications. It arises from a distorted expression of identity and belonging. It is expressed in destructive patterns of relating which segregate, exclude, discriminate against or are violent towards a specified religious other with significant personal and social consequences.

Now share this video with the group. Think about these questions:

  • Do you agree with the statements?

  • Do you feel people have enough understanding of sectarianism?

  • Is sectarianism an acceptable part of Scottish culture?

This poem is shared on the Action on Sectarianism website. Create a video or performance piece where each Youth Volunteer reads aloud a line of the poem. You can choose your own style such as slow and deliberate or in a wrap style. Make sure you take time to focus on meaning and getting a message across.


There is a word we need to know. We need to break it down. In fact it needs hard hitting in every part of town “Sectarian” is that word. Evil lurks inside We need your help to break it up. We must not from it hide.

So lets start with SEC The time it’ll take Your own life to wreck If you act for hate’s sake

Then there is TAR It makes us the same We tar with one brush if we call folks a name

But should we say TEAR? That’s how it sounds It’ll tear us apart if it abounds

Lastly there’s IAN Jean, Chris or Stan It gets very personal if we are it’s fan

So lets choose what’s right, respect and don’t fight. Hate, harm and trouble will flee out of sight. Sectarian is jealous. He wants our fear If we reject him, He’ll disappear

(From 'What's the Score' poetry by pupils from Parkhill Secondary School)

Remember to share your results on the PSYV social media.

Activity 2: Agree or Disagree

Have a look at these statements and discuss if you agree or disagree and why. You can view images to go with the statements here.

  • Sectarianism isn't a problem here

  • You only hear insults like 'tim' and 'hun' from blokes in Glasgow

  • If we get rid of religious schools we will get rid of sectarian behaviour

  • Opinions don't have to be passed down through family generations

  • There is a line between banter and abuse

Now watch this video from the AOS resources called Prejudice Breeds Prejudice (created by Fablevision). Does this change any views or shed new light on Sectarianism? Think about how, when and why we might develop sectarian prejudices.

Activity 3: Timeline and Quiz

According to the Action on Sectarianism resources the roots of sectarianism can be found in many of the historical events which shaped Scotland today.

Have a look at some of the background, the timeline and the online quiz.

Activity 4: Banter or Abuse

When Jack McConnel was the First Minister of Scotland he described sectarianism as 'Scotland's Secret Shame'. Have a look at this first programme from a series created by the BBC to highlight the causes and consequences of sectarianism in Scotland.

Scotland's Secret Shame

Now that you've watched the programme, work as a group to create a guide on what is banter and what is abuse. You can use drama, graphics, poetry, song, photography, collage or another medium of your choice.

Remember to share your results of PSYV social media.

Activity 5: Debate the Law

The law has the means to tackle some of the effects of sectarianism through for example the Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003; the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003 and the Equalities Act 2010. However there was a case made that the law wasn't adequate to deal with some of the very specific behaviours associated with sectarianism such as threats of serious harm and expressing or singing sectarian songs. Therefore the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threating Communications (Scotland) Act was introduced in 2011. However there has recently been campaigning to repeal the Act with criticism that it is unworkable.

Set up two teams and run a debate on whether or not to repeal the Act. You will need to give both teams a bit of time to search the internet to formulate their arguments. We're sure that the Action on Sectarianism site will come in useful.

Follow Up

A good way to follow up this activity is to try some more of the Action on Sectarianism activities.

One good example is 'The Iceberg' which is an interactive group activity to explore common cultural features.

You could invite a police officer that's responsible for managing cases of sectarianism or hate crime to come and speak to the group.

You could organise a peer education campaign for PSYV's to deliver to local schools and youth groups.


Once you have delivered this session, complete this review.

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